Our Greatest Living Film Critic, X

August, 2019

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Watched Avengers: Endgame (2019), in which Earth's Mightiest Heroes travel back in time to get the Infinity Gems and undo Thanos' dastardly deed. This is an inspired idea for a plot, because it lets them revisit the previous MCU movies and do a victory lap before closing out this chapter of the franchise. Everything in this movie was very predictable, and despite being good a lot of the time, it was never great. My favorite part was when Ant Man's taco gets blown away by the ground effects of a spaceship landing, and then everybody makes fun of him, but then Hulk gives him two tacos. I almost cried. I'm glad I didn't, because those tears would have turned into tears of rage when Thanos was able to break Cap's shield with his sword. That is not possible. That is horse shit. This movie sucked, and I give it 3.25 juice pops out of a possible 5 juice pops.

Under the Silver Lake (2019)

I watched Under The Silver Lake (2019), a movie by David Robert Mitchell, starring Andrew Garfield as a man whose life is falling apart, who coincidentally happens to get drawn into a conspiracy involving hidden codes planted in media, nude assassins in bird masks, and the fate of Los Angeles billionaires. A thoroughly polarizing movie for critics. I initially found it plodding and insular, but at a certain point (right around when the Hobo King showed up) I looked up and realized I was really enjoying it. This movie is like the following movies in a blender: The Long Goodbye, Chinatown, Mulholland Drive, The Big Lebowski, and Pi. I'm not sure how anyone watched it and didn't realize it was an absurdist comedy, and that the main character was delusional. There's a scene where he's trailing some suspects, and they rent a paddleboat, so he rents a paddleboat to keep following them. I give it 4 life masks out of a possible 5 life masks.

Avengement (2019)

Watched Avengement (2019). It's a revenge fantasy movie, sort of a cross between Bronson and The Revenant, about a boxer set up to go to prison by a London gangster, who then puts a hit out on him. The boxer becomes the Goku of prison fighting, gets a grille, then breaks out to wreak his avengement (which unfortunately is a real word). The movie is told in flashbacks during a hostage situation in a pub, and is surprisingly enjoyable for what it is. The bar fight you know is going to happen happens, and it's brutal. What parent would name one of their two male children Cain? Everything in England is on CC TV except the prisons, apparently? Ross O'Hennessy was great as the bent copper (blimey)! The fact that Cain did not brutally kill that bartender is pure chauvinism. I give it 3.5 curb stomps out of a possible 5 curb stomps.

Public Enemies (2009)

Watched Public Enemies (2009). This is probably Michael Mann's most forgettable movie, a retelling of John Dillinger's last days that was only slightly different than the one any serviceable director would have made. Some moments stand out, but they're exceptions. Without neon or sodium lighting, it doesn't feel right, and none of these actors are ugly enough, or career criminals enough to be his cast. Johnny Depp still just does an impression of a character rather than inhabiting it, and Christian Bale can't do a Southern accent, god bless him. Herc from The Wire wears a toupee. There are two types of Mann movies: "I live and die by my own rules," and "Can't you see the old days are going away?", and this one actually does a bad job at being both. The man running through the orchard? That's Channing Tatum. The most disappointing thing of all is that the bullet noises are fake. I give it 3 phone books out of a possible 5 phone books.

Bloodsport (1988)

Watched Bloodsport (1988) a movie directed by nobody, about Commander Guile competing in the Street Fighter tournament. For this movie they actually filmed inside the Kowloon Walled City. There's a middle eastern gentleman whose voice is clearly dubbed by a chain smoking Romanian garbage man, but only in one scene. Best part is when the janitor steals the gold tooth JCVD knocked out of the guy's mouth. Strangest scene is the comedy foot chase. It's also funny when Forest Whitaker doesn't know how to use chopsticks. Evidently a lot of cocaine was being done right before the camera rolled? Even dogs don't want to eat eel! I almost cried when Chong Li stole Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds' Harley Davidson bandana from his broken body. I give it 2.5 pectoral flexes out of a possible 5 pectoral flexes.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Watched Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019), a movie in which Pikachu has to help an orphan save the city. Pikachu is pretty cute with that detective hat on, and he has some funny lines. There were a couple neat effects sequences. Other than that, the movie kinda sucked. I don't know enough Pokemon to care about most of it, and it's definitely for kids. Why would you choose a non-cute pokemon to be your "partner"? There's one that looks like a gross tree, and Psyduck is a liability. The actor playing the main character was fine. Bulbasaur was fine. Mr. Mime was fine. The ending made zero sense: felt like they must have changed it from something else. I give it 2.5 electric mice out of a possible 5 electric mice.

The conspiracy

Yes, there is a conspiracy, indeed there are a great number of conspiracies, all tripping each other up … the main thing that I learned about conspiracy theories is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in the conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control, the truth is far more frightening; no-one is in control, the world is rudderless.

— Alan Moore

Quotidian

It would be a desirable and enviable existence just to earn a decent wage at a worthwhile job and spend all one’s leisure hours improving one’s aesthetic appreciation. There is so much to appreciate, and it is all available for peanuts. One can plausibly aspire to seeing, hearing and reading everything that matters.

Clive James

Would it? Is it? Can one?

Our Trojan War

“I believed very much that the American Civil War is an experience central to our lives—all Americans but especially Southerners. The Civil War, for us, was very much similar to the Trojan War for Greeks; the Civil War is our Iliad. And I think it could be written any number of times by any number of writers, in part or as a whole, the way the Greeks did.”

— Shelby Foote

The defining qualities of literary Modernism

["Mrs Bathurst"] in effect, is the first modernist text in English. Deliberate obliqueness, formal fragmentation, intense literary self-consciousness, lack of closure-all the defining qualities of modernism were present and correct.

— Harry Ricketts

Our Greatest Living Film Critic, XII

November, 2019

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

Watched The Hunt for Red October (1990), a Tom Clancy thriller directed by John Mctiernan, which is why it feels like Die Hard (1988). Sean Connery is a Russian submarine captain betting the fate of his crew and risking WWIII in order to defect. Alec Baldwin plays sultry pain in the neck Jack Ryan. This may be Connery's best role. Shares a surprising amount with Ice Station Zebra: a race to acquire doomsday military technology, a saboteur trying to destroy their own sub, and a climax forced by the unexpected arrival of the Russian navy. Overall, this movie is a treat for fans of conning towers. It doesn't make sense why Ramius sends a note explaining what he's doing beforehand, but without that note there is no plot. I felt a sense of sadness when Sam Neal started talking about is plans for the future, because that means he is going to die. I give it 3.75 recreational vehicles out of a possible 5 recreational vehicles.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Rewatched The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), an Anthony Minghella film in which Matt Damon kills Jude Law, then Philip Seymour Hoffman. In the original book, Tom Ripley is a con man from the start, and going to Europe after Dickie Greenleaf was always part of a grift. I prefer Minghella's version, in which love, wealth, and identity are entwined for Ripley so you can't be sure whether he kills Dickie because he doesn't want to go back to being poor, or because his romantic affection wasn't returned, or because he's a parasite taking over his host. Gorgeous photography, great score, terrible 90s title sequence. I would say scrub it out, but you can't because it's superimposed over the first few shots. There was an adaptation of this book filmed in 1960, but there are also two sequels to this movie filmed in the early 2000s, one starring John Malkovich as the title character, and one starring Barry Pepper. Believe it or not, seeing this movie is reputedly what inspired Tommy Wiseau to make The Room (2003). I give it 3.5 busts of Hadrian out of a possible 5 busts of Hadrian.

Plein Soleil (1960)

Watched Plein Soleil (1960), an adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. As opposed to the book, and Minghella's adaptation of it, there is no homosexual subplot, and Ripley gets caught in the end. He is basically a con man who gets in over his head, and almost lies his way out of it. This was Alain Delon's first major role, and he's good. The female lead chews with her mouth open. The guy who plays Philip Seymour Hoffman is pretty bad. This version adds a lot of French-style slapstick bits, which were out of place, and some montages I didn't need. It's nice to see authentic, beautiful color footage of Italy in the late 50s. The 1999 adaptation is clearly superior in just about every way, yet its not rated as highly -- not sure why. I give it 3 rubber hands out of a possible 5 rubber hands.

Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood (2019)

Watched Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood (2019), Quentin Tarantino's rambling, revisionist fable about 1969. Leonardo DiCaprio is an aging action star trying to stay relevant, and Brad Pitt is his stunt double: an aimless, superheroic coolguy who can't stay out of trouble. His character is established when he loses his job by kicking Bruce Lee's ass. This movie has an astonishing number of cameos. I think it's my favorite Tarantino movie. It's dense with great moments, dialog, and things to look at, which is what I want out of his movies, and it's not as bewilderingly eccentric as the last few have been. I know a lot has been said about him rewriting history in Inglourious Basterds (2009), and he does it in this movie: has there been a satisfactory explanation for what he's trying to accomplish? The same guy who played Manson in Mindhunter plays him in this movie. I give it 4.25 donuts out of a possible 5 donuts.

Hunting

The significance of a human experience can be measured by the quantity and quality of its art. By this criterion religion and erotic love are the deepest of our poor resources; but hunting, however distant on the surface, lies adjacent to them in the depths.

— Roger Scruton

This is the exact argument he didn't make adequately in his book On Hunting. I'm very sympathetic to hunting as a pastime, I've done it myself, and in this book by a philosopher I was looking for a more reflective treatment of the subject than he gave me.

He calls it a memoir, and even says that it will not be a defense of hunting. But the rest of the book is about how great hunting is. So, rather than working as an honest memoir, it just felt more like an inadequate defense.

Success

Grasp an idea and work it out to a successful conclusion. That's about all there is in life for any of us.

— E.H. Harriman

The lunar age

Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves.

— Thomas Jefferson

Owning dogs

[Hunting hounds] live still in their savage state, relieved of that constant and inachievable demand to mimic the manners of a moral being, which troubles the life of the incarcerated pet. They sleep in a pack in dog-scented kennels, hunt in a pack with their powers supremely stretched; they eat raw flesh, and not too much of it; they drink the brackish water of mud-stopped ditches; and the prices of every slackness is the rough end of the tongue. Once trained to hunt they can never be subdued to a household regime, and can expect nothing when their hunting strength has gone besides a shot in the head, often administered by the very man whose love is all to them. But their time on earth is a happy one; everything they do is rooted in their nature, and even the crowning gift of human love comes in the guise of species-life: for the huntsman is leader of the pack, first among the band of canine warriors. His authority is not that mysterious, guilt-ridden thing that appears to the pet in the down-turned milky eyes of his crooning captor, but the glad imperative of the species, miraculously incarnate in human form.

— Roger Scruton